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The song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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The song of Achilles (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Madeline Miller

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,5071374,910 (4.11)3 / 622
Member:TheoClarke
Title:The song of Achilles
Authors:Madeline Miller (Author)
Info:London ; New York : Bloomsbury, 2011.
Collections:LT connections, Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:21st century, Achilles, Ancient Greece, fantasy, fiction, gay, god, Greece, hardcover, historical, Iliad, love, mythology, novel, Patroclus, Trojan war, Troy, US author, war

Work details

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)

  1. 90
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (1morechapter)
  2. 50
    The King Must Die by Mary Renault (wrmjr66)
  3. 40
    The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault (shaunie)
  4. 30
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  5. 30
    The Iliad by Homer (alalba)
  6. 20
    Grendel by John Gardner (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another brilliantly retold classic by a modern author.
  7. 10
    An Arrow's Flight: A Novel by Mark Merlis (marq)
    marq: Mark Merlis also takes up the story of Pyrrhus (or Neoptolemus), Achilles’ son with Deidamia when he was in disguise as a woman on Scyros. A very different kind of novel, steampunk, wild anachronism, graphically homoerotic, brilliant.
  8. 00
    The Love Artist by Jane Alison (jbvm)
  9. 322
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (TomWaitsTables)
    TomWaitsTables: Because Song of Achilles is Homer's Illiad as a Twilight novel. Sorry.
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English (134)  Dutch (3)  All languages (137)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I would like to say in all seriousness: This is now my favourite book.

I've been trying to figure out what to say in this review for a few days now, and I just can't? This book destroyed me.

This book was meant for me.

I remember the first time I ever saw this book was in an airport. It can't have been very long after it was published because this was only about 3-4 years ago, and I was on my way to visit my Father in the UK. I hadn't even read the blurb, but I had decided I wanted this book. I knew I was going to love it. I wanted to buy it! But, as my Mother pointed out, I already had enough books to read whilst I was away - I could get the book when we got back.

I didn't get the book when I got back. I ended up getting it on Kindle years later, and then put off reading it for months.

Why? I don't know. I love all things Ancient History - more than anything, the Ancient Greeks. This is exactly my kind of thing. I remember having this same love affair with Mary Renault's The Alexander Trilogy. So I honestly don't know why I waited until now to read this book.

Do I regret that I waited this long? Absolutely not. It might only be a matter of 3-4 years, but I would never have appreciated this book then, the way I do now.

The Song of Achilles is the story of the illustrious Achilles Peleides, Aristos Achaion. More than that, it's the story of what made him human in spite of being half-god. The book is told from the narrative of Patroclus Menotiades, an exiled prince, who comes to the court of King Peleus, and there meets the second half of his soul.

Miller has obviously followed Plato's interpretation of their relationship here. Contrary to major movies starring Brad Pitt, Achilles and Patroclus were not cousins. They were not remotely related. There is no definitive answer to the question of 'were they lovers?' but I like to think they were. There's enough evidence out there for me, and certainly Homer doesn't make it explicit, but you cannot deny the way, aside from it's depth, the way in which Achilles grieves - refusing to burn Patroclus' body, keeping it in his tent and weeping over it - provides pretty compelling evidence.

Anyway ...

What I really love about this book? The fact that it's told from Patroclus' narrative. This was a genius stroke by Miller. It certainly wouldn't have been anywhere near as good if it had been told from an impersonal third person, or even from Achilles point of view. How could you possibly relate to someone who was half-god? But to the poor mortal who loved him? That you can relate to. Almost everyone will have had that experience of thinking someone divine through the force of your feelings for them. The only difference here, is Achilles really is of the divine.

Patroclus is the relateable outcast. He's not a loser by any means, but he's just not a warrior in a culture where the true measure of a man is in his ability to be one, surrounded as they are by stories of heroes and gods. So far in that the divinities are real characters in this book: Thetis, Achilles' mother; Chiron, Centaur and teacher; and cameos by Apollo and minor Gods. The addition of these characters adds a sense of magic, whilst maintaining a sense of realism. You feel that it is quite feasible that they existed once, and that they did play a part in this story.

The Story of Achilles is one that is recognised the world over, and the name of Achilles is synonymous with the name Troy. But that's not what this book is about. This book is a love story. It's the story of two best friends growing up, learning to love each other, discovering their world together and their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of their love.The depth of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is what really sets this book apart from all the other re-tellings of the Illiad.

If you only read one book this year, make it this one. ( )
1 vote LydiaLeigh257 | Apr 29, 2015 |
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
One of the greatest love stories never told…until Miller chose to work with this ancient story.
This is the love song of Patroclus for Achilles, a demi-god who befriends him while they are both young. Their friendship grows into something more, a powerful expression of the heart. But when the winds of war blow over them both, they must bow to Achilles’ fate and join forces fighting Troy to recapture Helen of Sparta.
Told in prose that is spare yet masterful, The Song of Achilles reveals the deeper movements that drive both Patroclus and Achilles forward to their deaths. Told with warmth that lacks any overblown sentimentality, this story is moving and emotionally fulfilling. A must-read for fans of mythology and those who enjoy walking side-by-side with lovers who face destiny with courage.
( )
1 vote Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
Trojan War/Iliad slash fanfic. All the lead-up was pretty engaging and the prose had a spare but fluid quality to it. The treatment of the actual war felt a bit cursory, though I understood that Miller was more interested in character than in action scenes. Maybe what bothered me was that this was where it felt more like briefly retelling the Iliad than telling her own story, as most of the book had been. ( )
  kleos_aphthiton | Feb 8, 2015 |
I didn't expect to like The Song of Achilles as much as I did. I didn't expect to like it much at all, it being a well-regarded book about a mythological warrior, whose story was already familiar to me in broad strokes, if not in the details. Not only would there be a lot of battle scenes, but I knew how the story ended. But[Madeline Miller tells the familiar story in a fresh way and her love of Greek mythology shows through.

While Achilles himself remains a bit of a cipher, his companion, Patroclus, is vividly real, and it's from his point of view that the story is told. The world Miller writes about is very different from our own, with centaurs and sea-nymphs, myth-makers and men who prefer to die young and violently, but leaving behind a glittering reputation, than to die old and have lived a life of obscure prosperity. But the fears and emotions, Miller tells the reader, were the same, with people struggling to survive and to know what the right thing to do is.

What results is a compelling, unputdownable story. We know the end before we begin, but so does Achilles himself, lending added weight to the decisions he makes. And Patroclus is a worthy narrator, as he changes from an uncertain, tentative boy into a man willing to take risks and make hard decisions. ( )
3 vote RidgewayGirl | Jan 9, 2015 |
okay, this is gonna be edited cus I'm at the library right now and I'm hungry but here's my quick verdict:

You'd think that I'd be all over this stuff (gratuitous background: former/failed classics student, mildly ashamed reader of trashy slash fanfiction). But I found this novel disappointing, especially since I had read so many gushing reviews. Despite Miller's credentials as a classics instructor at Brown), the book feels curiously fanfiction-y?? Don't get me wrong, the writing is beautiful in its simple, clear way (expect dozens of pretty similes comparing people's voices to the ocean or whatever), but I couldn't shake the feeling that a super-talented 16 year old girl could have written it.

The mythological aspect is pretty cheesy. There could have been a way to incorporate divine intervention into the story without it being so explicit. I think it's better to have men BELIEVING that the gods are meddling (think the sacrifice of Iphigenia in return for favorable winds) rather than to show direct evidence of the existence of the gods, but here, the gods literally walk the earth. I actually prefer the realist touch of interpretations like the Brad Pitt vehicle "Troy" (which doesn't stop it from being a terrible movie. don't watch it.)

also Patroclus is basically like Bella Swann for like 3/4th of the book. Jeez we get it, you have a giant hard-on for Edward Cullen Achilles. Thetis (Achilles's controlling mother) and others express their bewilderment with Achilles choosing the wimpy Patroclus as his companion --I gotta say, I was puzzled too. but by the end, you finally catch a glimpse of what achilles saw in patroclus. patroclus and achilles have exchanged roles: Achilles becomes a whiny little bitch and under duress, Patroclus proves that he is truly the "best of the Myrmidons".

the most moving passage in the book is when patroclus and achilles are enjoying the golden days of their youth and achilles vows that he *will* be happy despite the fact that every epic hero that came before him (Heracles, Jason, etc.) experienced great tragedy. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking moment. we know that the boys can't escape fate, but we can't help but hope that maybe, this time, something will change.

I'm not really sure that "Song of Achilles" deserved to win 2012's Orange Prize (excuse me, the Women's Prize. Who came up with that name change again?) And if you really want to read about eros between young male heroes, I'd suggest trying Mary Renault instead. But if you still want to see what all the fuss is about, "Song of Achilles" is a quick and easy read. (I read it over the course of two nights during a summer derecho, electricity out, in my sweltering living room with a flashlight).

oh and finally, I can't finish this review without saying... achilles: top in the streets, bottom in the sheets Y/Y?!! ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
That The Song of Achilles offers a different take on the epic story of Achilles and the Trojan War is not, in itself, anything particularly out of the ordinary. People have been putting their own spins on The Iliad from the instant Homer finished reciting it. What's startling about this sharply written, cleverly re-imagined, enormously promising debut novel from Madeline Miller is how fresh and moving her take on the tale is — how she has managed to bring Achilles and his companion Patroclus to life in our time without removing them from their own.
added by Shortride | editUSA Today, Robert Bianco (Mar 12, 2012)
 
But in the case of Miller, who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in classics at Brown, the epic reach exceeds her technical grasp. The result is a book that has the head of a young adult novel, the body of the “Iliad” and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland.
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Madeline Millerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Douglas, FrazerNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AllisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.… (more)

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